Factory Closures Strain China’s Labor Law

Officials in China are purportedly permitting violations legal obligations of China’s Labor Contract Law in order to let hard-pressed businesses stay afloat, leaving workers at a serious disadvantage. From Wall Street Journal:

The global economic downturn is testing China’s efforts to improve labor laws, pitting the need to give basic legal protections to 700 million workers against the need to keep businesses afloat.

The country’s economic emergence boosted incomes, but also led to complaints that workers’ rights were being trampled. In response, the central government in January 2008 introduced workplace-protection legislation, known as the Labor Contract Law. The law sought to tighten job security, to make dismissing workers more difficult, and to guarantee severance pay of one month’s salary for each year of employment. Last year, China added new job-discrimination laws and made it easier to file complaints against employers.

But as the global financial crisis hits the heart of the world’s factory floor, labor activists say officials are turning a blind eye to the new requirements. Local governments deny they are becoming lax, yet complaints against employers languish in huge backlogs as many are simply shuttering their factories.

For more background on the labor law, see this post from the China Law Blog and this past CDT post from January 2008.

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